Prospective web designers should and undoubtedly will have a portfolio of past work for you to evaluate. The portfolio will probably be very colorful and pretty, and will showcase the snazziest pieces of work that designer or web design company has produced.
Don’t make the mistake of getting distracted like a kitten glimpsing a shiny object: a good portfolio absolutely must demonstrate more than visual flair. Here are three things you should look for when evaluating a design portfolio.
Web design is more than just making a website aesthetically pleasing. There is a development aspect that is crucial, and it requires a breadth of technical ability. Meeting your site’s and your user’s needs may require applications or plug-ins. There will most likely be database integration needed to serve content and conduct sales. And of course there are always new browser capabilities, ensuring that web designers need to stay current on new technologies.
How does your prospective designer demonstrate technical ability? They should clearly indicate programming and scripting languages used, applications and databases used, and other “under the hood” information. If they do not do so in their portfolio, you need to ask them during the interview.
The main point of a website is to provide information. For businesses, that information should lead to sales. Your web design shop should be able to interpret your business goals into solid marketing techniques for your website. This can include visual design elements, integration of social media, video and the like as well as underlying factors like search engine optimization.
All of these and more play a part in the marketing being done by your site. A designer should be able to report gains made in search ranking, increases in online conversions, and other market data to demonstrate their marketing capability.
This one seems obvious, but a few pretty looking websites does not equal a high level of experience. Your prospective web design company’s portfolio should reflect a wide range of experience with clients of varying sizes. A multi-million dollar company isn’t going to hire a designer who did the website for his mom’s flower shop and calls himself a design firm. Look carefully at the sites in the portfolio: how big are the other client companies? How large are their sites? Are the sites still up, and how are they doing?